Policy Insights

What have we learned from randomized evaluations that policymakers, practitioners, and funders can use to improve social programs? J-PAL’s Policy Insights, organized by sector, highlight lessons emerging across multiple studies and the mechanisms that help explain the results.

J-PAL’s Sector Chairs and staff draw these insights from relevant randomized evaluations, updating and adding insights as the body of evidence grows. Each Policy Insight briefly summarizes their perspective on the evidence on a specific topic, with links to the original research and policy summaries. Read this blog post for more information about how we develop Policy Insights.

When combined with a detailed understanding of context and program implementation, we hope these insights can be practical inputs for policy and program design. For examples of how insights from randomized evaluations have informed policy, visit our Evidence to Policy page.

Teacher helping student

Reducing community college dropout through comprehensive supports

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Providing community college students with a wide range of comprehensive supports, such as counseling, tutoring, and financial assistance, can improve low rates of persistence and graduation. These support programs address many simultaneous barriers that students face, which may be a key driver...
Two adults sit outside reading with three children.

Encouraging early childhood stimulation from parents and caregivers to improve child development

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Evidence from 11 low- and middle-income countries shows that encouraging caregivers to play and interact with children aged 0–3 in a stimulating way improves children’s cognitive development. These programs can increase the time and resources parents invest in their children’s development. However...

Supporting firm growth through consulting and business training

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Economists have long identified large differences in productivity between countries and between firms. One potential explanation for the persistent gap is that some firms have better management practices than others.

Teaching business skills to support microentrepreneurs

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Business skills training programs increased microentrepreneurs’ use of business best practices, but in most cases, there were no significant changes in their profits.

Encouraging residential energy efficiency

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Programs that encouraged investments in residential energy efficiency had limited returns in several impact evaluations in real-world settings. Relatively small impacts on energy savings coupled with low take-up meant that encouraging these investments through information campaigns and subsidies was...

The limited impact of US workplace wellness programs on health and employment-related outcomes

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Two randomized evaluations of workplace wellness programs in the US found limited impact on employees’ health habits and no impact on their health, employment, or health care costs in the initial years, contrary to previous observational studies.

Facilitating savings among smallholder farmers to smooth or increase consumption

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Offering savings products to smallholder farmers did not transform agricultural investment or output in six studies in sub-Saharan Africa. In a few cases, savings products sometimes benefited farmers by providing a form of risk protection and by helping them smooth consumption over time.
Image: Elections in Nagpur, India

The risks and rewards of voter information campaigns in low- and middle-income countries

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Providing information on candidates’ qualifications, policy positions, and performance in office can affect voter turnout and who people vote for. In lower-income countries, this type of information has been most effective when it was widely disseminated from a credible source.